Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fall Flowers for the Shade Garden

I think for the average gardener shade gardens are tough to wrap their head around. They're not like sun gardens that have an abundance of blooms all spring, summer, and fall. A majority of well-known shade plants bloom only in spring. So shade gardens tend to bee seen as a study in contrast and texture with color as often coming from leaves as it does from flowers. This isn't to say you can't or won't have flower color all season long, but it takes a little extra effort to accomplish.

Shade gardens seem to take a back seat especially in fall. I think there's so much emphasis from various media on mums and pumpkins that gardeners overlook the fact there are plenty of great fall-blooming plants for the shade garden. Staged correctly you can have almost as much color riot in fall as you can in spring. And you get a diversity of foliage color and texture too!

We carry many of these at Botanophilia, and you can find them here.

Actaea simplex - black snakeroot, black cohosh, bugbane, fairy candles
This great plant is represented in gardens primarily by its many dark-leafed forms, 'Hillside Black Beauty' and 'Black Negligee' are probably the most popular. The former has the darkest foliage on the market, the latter is much more vigorous and still has nice dark color. Foliage is coarsely divided and reaches 2-3' tall. 12" spikes of white, sometimes tinged pink, fragrant flowers to 6-7' tall in August and September often lasting into October. Easily reaching 7' across in time, this plant takes up some real estate but is a magnificent accent plant.

Former classified in the genus Cimicifuga, in 2000 it was reclassified using morphology and DNA data and placed in Actaea. Also often listed as Actaea or Cimicifuga ramosa, but there is no valid species by that name. Ramosa was published in an obscure reference 1932. Any plants listed as such most likely belong to A. simplex which is native to Russia, China, Korea and Japan. There IS however Actaea racemosa native to the US, but (as far as I know anyway) there are no dark leafed forms of that species. The similarity between the invalid ramose and racemosa often leads to confusion as well.

Actaea simplex 'Hillside Black Beauty'

Anemone hupehensis and x hybrid -  Japanese anemone
The group of fall blooming Anemones come in a range of colors from white through vibrant dark pink and may be single or double flowered. They range in size from 14" to 4' tall depending on variety. The only down side to this plant is that it can be pretty aggressive, so it can be tough to mix with other plants. But as a large scale groundcover it can work very well and give a huge amount of color in the fall. Some hybrids may be less aggressive than others as well.
Anemone 'Whirlwind' 

Chelone glabra 'Black Ace' - White Turtlehead
White turtlehead is a great US native that forms a 4' tall x 3' wide patch of dark green foliage topped with white flowers in late summer to fall. Apparently it can reach nearly 6' tall in optimum conditions.As a general rule Chelone glabra prefers moist conditions as it's found bordering wetlands but I've had good luck with it in average conditions if it doesn't get too dry. It's also the larval host for the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly. 'Black Ace' emerges with dark, almost black, stems and foliage that gives way quickly to dark green.

Chelone lyonii 'Hot Lips' - Pink Turtlehead
Similar in look to white turtlehead but with broader foliage and rich pink flowers. This species has a bit more of a spreading habit as well, reaching 5-6' wide in time. Foliage is clean, glossy, and dark green. 'Hot Lips' is the typically encountered form of the species, but there are a few other varieties. Some are reputedly quite compact but that so far hasn't been the case in my gardens.

Eurybia divaricate 'Eastern Star' - white wood aster
This might be one of my favorite under-rated fall bloomers for shade. Formerly classified in the genus Aster, it was moved to Eurybia when the American Asters were reclassified. 'Eastern Star' is a nice compact form that stays 18" or less for me. White flowers in September are small and unassuming individually but make a great show when viewed en masse. Arrow-shaped foliage is dark green and held on dark wiry stems. After flowering you can get excellent fall color ranging from yellow to bright red.

Geranium soboliferum 'Butterfly Kisses' - Cranesbill, hardy geranium
Geraniums are typically thought of as spring bloomers but there are a few species that bloom in fall. G. soboliferum is one of those and 'Butterfly Kisses' is a selection from Brent Horvath with bright pink flowers. Foliage is finely cut like many other species and fall color can be a good bright red, habit is mounded and clump forming to 18" x 24". I have had it seed around a bit but I wouldn't call it invasive. I love this plant as a textural contrast to hosta.

Kirengeshoma palmata - Yellow Wax Bells
Kirengeshoma has become one of my favorite background plants for shade gardens. Broad palmate foliage on typically upright stems topped with waxy, bell-shaped, yellow flowers in August to October. Growing 4-6' tall and equally as wide. This is a great backer for hostas, grasses, and ferns in shade gardens.

Leucosceptrum japonicum - Japanese mountain mint
Japanese mountain mint is a neat plant that's starting to gain a little more popularity. It's one of the well-behaved plants in the mint family. 'Gold Angel' has bright yellow foliage and forms a nice clump 3-4' tall x 3' wide. 'Silver Angel' has silver foliage, is a little bit rhizomatous, and grows 18-24" tall x 3-4' wide. 'Mountain Madness' has randomly variegated foliage and a similar habit to 'Gold Angel'. Flowers are short spikes of lavender flowers very late in the season, October here in Wisconsin.
Leucosceptrum japonicum 'Gold Angel'

Leucosceptrum japonicum 'Mountain Madness'

'Leucosceptrum japonicum 'Silver Angel'

Salvia koyamae - Japanese woodland sage
Salvia is usually thought of as plants for dry sunny gardens but there are several species that are found in woodland habitats. Salvia koyamae has broad fuzzy foliage mounded 2-3' tall x 3-4' wide topped with light yellow flowers in August through September. For me it's fast growing and is a great background for ferns with Hakonechloa and Heuchera for color and texture contrast.

Salvia koyamae variegated form

Solidago flexicaulis 'Variegata' - Zig-Zag Goldenrod
Another favorite very under-rated shade plant, goldenrod in general needs to be utilized more and this one absolutely should be used in shade gardens. It's well-behaved forming a 4'-5' wide colony in 10 years for me. Foliage is randomly splashed with bright gold. Flowering at 3-4' tall in August to late September. Great for pollinators and generally problem free. This makes a wonderful background to medium and large hostas.

Tricyrtis -
Toad Lily
Toad lily has been fairly popular over the years and there are many great forms available for gardeners. Flowers are typically white or yellow with purple spotting blooming in fall, though there are some that bloom in summer. For the most part form is upright, though there are some types with an arching habit.
Tricyrtis 'Dark Beauty'

Tricyrtis 'Dark Beauty'

Tricyrtis 'Golden Gleam'

Tricyrtis 'Golden Gleam'

Tricyrtis 'Miyazaki'

Tricyrtis 'Miyazaki'

Tricyrtis 'Miyazaki'

Tricyrtis 'Autumn Glow'

Tricyrtis 'Autumn Glow'

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